Betty Gulick

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The name Betty Gulick does not have much of a show-biz ring to it; neither is this child performer of the '20s remembered by anyone other than fanatics who sleep in piles of 78 records. Yet Gulick made…
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The name Betty Gulick does not have much of a show-biz ring to it; neither is this child performer of the '20s remembered by anyone other than fanatics who sleep in piles of 78 records. Yet Gulick made music business history in several ways: she was one of the youngest published songwriters and her recordings benefited from a dynamic example of marketing and distribution during a time in the record business when both notions were at primitive stages of development.

Gulick made her professional debut at the age of six as a stage performer. She gave a dynamic performance in the Eddie Carroll comedy entitled Daddy Dumplings, attracting so much attention that lines formed when she began signing sheet music in stores. In 1923, now a ripe age of ten, she actually inked a publishing pact with Triangle, a firm run by producer Joe Davis, and came out with a recording of her original song entitled "My Mother's Lullaby." Throughout more than half a century in the music business, Davis somehow reconciled his interest in overt sentimentality and child performers with naughty blues and risqué party records.

Marketing ploys were largely at the heart of all of these interests, Davis recognizing that the subjects of "mother" and "muthafuya" were equally likely to lure record buyers. Early in 1923 Davis demonstrated his business skills by managing to place articles on Gulick in newspapers up and down the East Coast while simultaneously getting "My Mother's Lullaby" on the racks in practically every record shop of importance. A copy of the Gulick recording, identified as being by "America's youngest songwriter," was part of the personal collection of the wife of the president at the time the record was released, Mrs. Warren G. Harding. In Davis' own memorabilia is one item that, by his possession alone, indicates Gulick's enormous popularity in the '20s. It is a letter from a fan in Denmark addressed thusly: "Miss Betty Gulick, the little 10 years composer of 'Mama's Cradle-song,' USA, America." The post office dropped the fan mail off at Davis' Triangle office.